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Minister Cabraal dismisses calculations made by MP Hashim

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Suggests he gets some coaching from Harsha de Silva, who knows subject

By Saman Indrajith

Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal told Parliament yesterday that as at the end of December 2019 total loans granted by the Central Bank to all banks for pawning advances stood at Rs. 210 billion and at the end of September 2020 it had increased by 27 billion to Rs. 237 billion.

Participating in the debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill, the Minister dismissed the figures presented by SJB MP Hashim as being inaccurate and demanded to know where the latter had obtained the misleading information from.

MP Kabir Hashim during his speech said that it was a clear indication of the failure of the government that people had pawned jewelleries to the tune of Rs. 643 billion.

Minister Cabral said by the end of December 2019 the credit card payments stood at Rs. 131 billion but had dropped by Rs. 25 billion to Rs.126 billion. “Therefore, I urge MP Kabir Hashim to get his facts right and perhaps get some expert advice on such matters by someone like MP Harsha de Silva, who knows this subject.”

The State Minister said that the year 2020 had been a very difficult and uncertain year for the country. “For over half the year we had a minority government and during the major part of the year we were speculating on whether an election could be held. The whole world was facing difficulties with the pandemic wreaking havoc. It was only after the formation of the new government that we were able to formulate a clear policy and delegate responsibilities.

Therefore, we have been able to move forward with a clear vision during the last three months,” he said.

The Minister said that the government had faced many challenges during the first three quarters of this year apart from the Covid pandemic, due to the mismanagement and misdeeds of the previous government over the past five years.

“During the past five years under the previous regime, the 6.3 per cent growth rate we maintained from 2010 to 2014 had dropped to 2.3 per cent

For the first time in 2019 the per capita income fell by USD 227 under the yahapalana government. Now, they are trying to discredit us by claiming that the country is in a debt trap. They are hoping for the fall of the government, but they will be disappointed; we will not their dream come true.”

Minister Cabral said that the debt burden was measured as a percentage of the GDP and in 2005, it stood at 91 per cent. “However, our government had reduced it to 70 per cent by 2014 and after the Yahapalana government took over they increased it back to 87 percent. This happened as they had increased the foreign debt by 49 per cent. They increased the short term loans within a short period and now we are tasked with rectifying their mistakes. The previous government paid Rs. 1,430 billion more than we did in debt interest within their five year tenure.”

Cabraal add that the previous regime had also managed to devalue the rupee and now the present government had to pay for its predecessor’s sins.

He said that the government was committed to steering the country on a path of progress and urged all MPs to cast aside their political differences and support the passage of the Appropriation Bill.

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Foreign force behind Easter Sunday attacks – Sirisena

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A powerful foreign country or an agency was behind the Easter Sunday bombings and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zaharan Hashim, former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I also do not believe that Zaharan was the leader of that organisation. Because a leader would never have initiated a suicide attack and died during the first wave,” Sirisena said.

The former President also said that Islamic extremism had spread rapidly in the country due to the support extremists received from Muslim politicians.

Sirisena also said that the military and intelligence officials had been demoralised by harassment they suffered during the yahaalanaya administration. This was the reason why local institutions failed to uncover NTJ’s plans. “But this incident is a conspiracy because it appeared that Zaharan was being manipulated by some foreign hand,” the former President said.

The President further said that during the previous administration, UNPers had headed the Ministry of Law and Order for several years that they had significantly weakened the intelligence services. Although he had taken the Ministry of law and Order in the last stages of the yahapalana government, he had not been able to undo the damage the UNP had done in four years, the witness said.

Commissioner: “Did you know that during your tenure as President, Muslim MPs and ministers were forcible acquiring land in Vanni and Batticaloa and they were constructing Muslim villages and mosques there?”

Sirisena: “Some ministers used their political power to clear forests and cultivate lands. Some ministers were angry with me when I tried to stop them. I tried hard to control those actions. But it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. Fundamentalism rose due to the protection given by Muslim political leaders. Certain political parties are based on religion, race and language. This is disastrous. I tried to stop these people but my decisions were not implemented.”

 

 

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Bathiudeen granted bail

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Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was released on bail by the Fort Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Bathiudeen on cash bail of Rs. 100,000 with two sureties of one million rupees each.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen and said that the guarantors should be his close relatives.

The Magistrate granted bail to the MP considering the risk of him contracting COVID-19 as two inmates in cells next to his had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Bathiudeen was remanded in connection with alleged misappropriation of public funds during the last presidential election to transport voters.

The former minister has been accused of misusing 222 buses owned by the SLTB for transporting internally displaced persons from Puttalam to polling stations in Silavathurai, Mannar during the 2019 Presidential Election. Two others, Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and Alagarathnam Manoranjan face the same charges.

They have allegedly violated Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds amounting to Rs. 9.5 million.

Bathiudeen was arrested at an apartment complex at Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala in the early hours of October 19. He was then produced before the court and placed under remand custody. His bail application was also rejected by the magistrate’s court on several occasions

 

 

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Zahran supported Sirisena and SLMC at 2015 elections, Hizbullah tells PCoI

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim supported Former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the 2015 elections, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

Hizbullah was giving evidence before the PCoI for the second day.

“Zahran supported the SLMC at the 2015 general election. After the UNP-led coalition won the election, NTJ members fought with our supporters. Several people were injured during the clash, including Zahran’s brother. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem visited Zahran’s brother at the hospital.”

The witness also submitted a footage of a demonstration opposite NTJ Headquarters in Kattankudy. It contained a speech by Zahran, who expressed his dismay after Sirisena appointed Hizbullah as a national list MP.

“In this video, Zahran clearly says he supported Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. Zahran also says he sent a fax to the former President, urging him not to appoint me to Parliament.”

However, it was earlier revealed that in 2015, representatives of five recognised political parties, including the UPFA and the UNP, had signed agreements with Zahran in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Representatives of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), too, had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for NTJ support, the Commission was told.

Hizbullah, on Monday, admitted that his party had also signed an agreement with the NTJ.

“Zahran told social media that he would support any politician who agreed to his proposals. All the parties joined him. I also went along.”

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